Zoom shut down US-based activist accounts at request of Chinese government

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Zoom has become the go-to videoconferencing platform for almost everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. This surge in popularity means the platform has had to scale quickly and as a result, it has encountered some issues it had not originally anticipated.

The latest involves the Chinese government and censorship, with the accounts of three US-based activists being closed as a result. The activists were planning to use Zoom to host vigils and memorial services for the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4th June, but at the behest of the Chinese government, the platform decided to close the accounts.

As for why it chose to do so, Zoom says it determined that three of the four organisers of the memorial services where citizens from mainland China, and consequently were in violation of the country’s distribution of information laws.

In hindsight Zoom says it made a mistake in closing down those accounts. “We could have anticipated this need,” the company confirmed in statement.

While acknowledging that a mistake was made, the company still believes it acted correctly.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate. When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws,” the company explained in a statement given to Axios.

“We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local law and continuously review and improve our process on these matters. We have reactivated the US-based account,” it adds.

Moving forward, Zoom says it will work on a way to adhere to the laws and regulations of specific countries, as well as protect the rights of its users.

The platform tells TechCrunch that it is, “Developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography. This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed.”

Whether it can indeed get the balance right on such a complicated matter remains to be seen, but with Zoom’s popularity and growth showing no signs of slowing down, it will need to know how to handle uncomfortable situations more effectively.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.